Short Kindle Supply is Keeping E-Book Fans Waiting

Julie Ann Shapiro's debut novel Jen-Zen and the One Shoe Diaries is among more than 100,000 digital titles for sale on Amazon's Kindle e-book reader. But the author is one of many readers who cannot get hold of a Kindle. "I wish I could tell you I had one," she sighs. "Most people I know are frustrated about not getting one."

Amazon amzn launched the paperback-size gadget to considerable fanfare last November. But prospective buyers who click on the Kindle links at the top of Amazon's home page are informed that due to heavy demand the product is "temporarily sold out."

The company takes Kindle orders on a first-come, first-served basis. But the online retailer won't reveal how many have been sold or when supply will catch up with demand.

"We can't go into details about exact wait times," says Amazon vice president for digital products Ian Freed, conceding that the company underestimated demand. "We've had to ramp up manufacturing pretty significantly, and ramping up a manufacturing takes a little time." Amazon's Senior Vice President Steven Kessel told a group of publishers recently that Amazon's focus is "on getting back in stock" with Kindles.

JupiterResearch vice president and research director Michael Gartenberg says, "It's almost like the literary version of a Wii" — a comparison to Nintendo's difficult-to-come-by video game console.

Judging from online discussion groups, the Kindle wait time seems to be about four to six weeks. It took a month before Sacramento-based digital library consultant Kris Ogilvie got hers. "What I didn't like is that they didn't really keep you informed about how long it would be," she says. But Ogilvie is happy with the device and says she's already recommended it to others.

Some people aren't willing to wait. In the past week or so, more than 180 Kindles have been snapped up on eBay ebay, for an average price of $443.82. A site called advertises some new units for nearly $550. Amazon sells Kindle for $399.

E-book readers let bookworms schlep a boatload of titles — more than 200 in Kindle's case. Kindle weighs around 10 ounces. Like its rival the Sony Reader sne, Kindle employs gray-scale electronic ink technology to replicate the experience of reading on actual paper.

But Kindle stands out. The online Kindle Store carries way more books than Sony's own online e-book store, including nearly all top New York Times best sellers. "You actually have books that people want to read," Gartenberg says.

And Amazon priced those books at $9.99 or less. "Getting to that $9.99 price point was a huge incentive," Gartenberg says.

Kindle's real breakthrough is in its wireless Whispernet network. Avid readers can search for and sample books, blogs and periodicals right from the device, and — with decent coverage — download purchased content in less than a minute. Whispernet is built on top of Sprint's s speedy EV-DO wireless network, the same technology used in certain cellphones. But folks don't have to pay fees to tap into the network.

Moreover, the books you buy are backed up on Amazon's servers, which comes in handy should you ever lose the Kindle or accidently delete a title.

To Amazon's credit, "They had the entire book, hardware, service mechanism and content totally in place by Day 1," says Tim Bajarin, president of the Creative Strategies consulting firm.

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